Candice: I spotted a month or so ago that the Warwick Words festival was returning. In the line up was a night with Mark Watson, a comedian I did not know but who is also an author, it sounded an interesting variation our usual writing/author nights.
Toddling up to meet Phil I realised we had not seen each other in at least a month as I have been up to my eyeballs with work and house stuff. The whole concept of writing and book publishing has been bottom of my list, but I was looking forward to a change from this other treadmill.
Settling in I wondered what we were to expect.
Mark opens with a plug for the book and a joke – sounds like a good start to me. In fact the opening reflected the rest of the show, a bit all over the place as it became half comedy and half book talk. However, this wasn’t a negative thing as I enjoyed having my funny bone tickled.
Mark was very honest, “My first two books were shit, I’ve got better.” “This evening I’m going to fly by the seat of the pants.” I could already see how Phil and I could make our turn to do this kind of event more interesting with comedy patter as well as book readings.
At one point he even suggested the audience didn’t listen any more and just thought about questions for the end.
My favourite part was the famous Elevator pitch: “In Eleven there’s a bloke who has a secret and in the end it’s fine, in The Knot it’s not fine !”
Then on to the reading. Interesting, his writing was very wordy, not really my style but then Mark proceeds to self criticize some of his writing as his style has moved on in the five years since he wrote that book. The second reading is better, more my cup of tea.
Then on to questions, Phil asks the same question I was going to ask. “If your first books were so bad how did they get published?” It seems Mark has a publishable style but he doesn’t believe that the concept or content was good. They lack soul. His first two books didn’t really sell so he was worried that he was finished before he begun. He then went off a developed a comedy career and came back to writing. Getting a publisher the second time around wasn’t the easiest as the first part wasn’t as successful. He said, ” I’ve had two separate careers, you want to get it right the first time or it could have a really negative impact.”
On the way out Phil and I had an interesting discussion about how commercial writers need to find commercial publisher. Mark has a degree in English so we can understand how he probably got published easier as Agents were looking for some one who reflected their own style and inclination to aim for the Orange Prize. We just want to appear on the holiday read stand at the airport and don’t mind if we get thrown away afterwards. I said we need to find someone who is an Agent for this style only else we’ll never get picked up.
To be honest I think we knew this, but when we ever get round to sending those inquiry letters out again, there will be more focus.